After thrilling title finale, NASCAR withdrawal now setting in

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We are all part of a giant circus, you and me. And when the circus shuts down, we don’t know exactly what to do.

Except perhaps not wanting to give ourselves the one thing we could probably use right now – a break.

I’m talking about NASCAR, of course, which is now officially in its hibernation phase. We’re in the middle of our first weekend without a NASCAR race since mid-July. And we won’t see another NASCAR race until Daytona Speedweeks in February.

There will be a few things in the off-season that will break up the monotony, the biggest of which being all the Champions Week stuff in Las Vegas. But eventually, we’re all gonna feel like we’re in that winter “dead zone.”

Perhaps some of you are already there. I’m noticing Twitter hashtags that highlight fans suffering from #NOD – that’s “NASCAR Offseason Disorder” – and today, #NoNASCARSunday.

The thing is, we all need to rest a little. We’re coming down from a long, 38-week schedule with 36 races. As exciting as it is and as much as we’ve paid attention to it, it’s still a grind.

And I’m just talking about the fans and media (like myself). What about the drivers and the teams that actually have to, you know, compete every weekend?

But hey, they’ve earned their vacation. As for the rest of us, our weekly routine has suddenly gone away, even if just for a relatively short period of time. And whenever a routine goes away – whether it involves NASCAR or something else – you’re left to ponder what to do with yourself.

You could keep tabs on some other disciplines of racing, perhaps.

Next month will see now-former Richard Petty Motorsports man Marcos Ambrose go back to V8 Supercars, but also the all-star Race of Champions in Barbados (which you can watch on NBCSN). Among the drivers competing in that special event is NASCAR’s own Kurt Busch. And you can see another NASCAR pilot, Sprint Cup rookie of the year Kyle Larson, tackle the Chili Bowl Nationals in January. Whether you prefer dirt or asphalt, the Chili Bowl is always a hoot.

Or maybe you can content yourself to just look ahead to 2015. There will be lots of questions to answer, among them…

  • Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing have captured the championship, but can they maintain their form and their pace?
  • Will Ryan Newman take a step back as many title runner-ups have done in recent years?
  • Can Toyota come out of the gate strong with their new Camry and give their drivers enough power to fight up front?
  • After a controversial Chase, will Brad Keselowski continue his aggressive ways or perhaps make an effort to curry more respect among his peers?
  • Has Jeff Gordon’s last best chance at a fifth title passed him by?
  • And can Dale Earnhardt Jr. continue his success with a new crew chief in Greg Ives?

Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait a while for the answers.

But if racing kept going year-round, it’d be a drain on everyone involved. We’ve got to take a breather.

Even if we don’t feel like doing so.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.